Concealing shooter doesn’t resolve issue

The Southerner

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It seems that the last decade especially has been full of horrific acts of violence. The escalation, or at least escalation in media coverage, of crime, namely gun violence and mass shootings, culminated in the tragic Aurora and Sandy Hook shootings of the past few months. With these tragedies comes renewed discussion on issues concerning guns. One discussion recently risen to prominence is whether or not shooters’ names should be published by media sources.

From a legal standpoint, there is no reason not to publish the names of shooters. Tragedy does not justify violating our long-standing principle regarding the freedom of the press. In fact, some of the press’s finest moments have been in aftermaths of tragedies, when they have been able to provide much-needed information and in some cases comfort to Americans. This is doubly true if the perpetrators are over 18, as were those in almost all of this century’s mass shootings. Not disclosing all available facts gives crimes another dimension of fear and mystery.

In fact, there may be benefits to the publication of names. It seems unlikely that the families of victims would be allowed to know this information if it were kept from the general public. Knowing the identity of killers brings a certain amount of closure to relatives. Knowing details about the shooter may help answer questions about the reason their loved one died. In a world where the names of shooters are not allowed to be published, the families of victims are left without a sense of closure, knowledge of how the tragedy could have been prevented, and in some cases the exact manner of their victims’ deaths.

Not publicizing shooters’ names does not take away the power they hold. Their power lies in the lives they took, often including their own. Keeping their names secret does not bring back the victims they killed. I do not think this decreases the horror of the crimes they committed and I do not think it stop sfuture crimes from happening.

Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that not publishing these killers’ names would be effective as a preventive measure. Other people aspiring to be household names pursue careers in acting, reality TV or in many cases extensive charity work or philanthropy. That the path to fame chosen by mass shooters is violence already indicates they are slightly if not completely disturbed. There is no reason their actions would be less heinous if media coverage were lessened. If an individual is willing to kill dozens of people, it seems unlikely that notoriety is their only motivation.

Publishing shooters’ names does not mean the media cannot also focus on the victims. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, I saw vastly more coverage of the victims than the criminal. We can all agree that mass shootings are tragic and entirely undesirable. But hiding killers’ names is the wrong solution to a very serious problem. We should focus on carrying out justice and effective preventive measures rather than suppressing people’s freedoms with tenuous links to results.

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